Legal Systems Advocacy Program Director, Center for Domestic Peace
San Francisco, CA
while so many of us are focused on how we are spending our time at home during quarantine, Luz Alvarado at the Center for Domestic Peace is focused on how she can keep people safe at home during quarantine. “domestic violence doesn’t stop during a crisis. neither do we.” here’s how she and her dedicated colleagues are helping those in need during this time — and how we all can, too.
“Center for Domestic Peace (C4DP) was founded in 1977 as Marin Abused Women’s Services (M.A.W.S). we began as a response to the Battered Women’s Movement, which did not start long before. at the time, it was not illegal to physically abuse one’s wife, and women began coming together to address the ways they could end the abuse in their lives. it was similar to the current Time’s Up movement, in which women had simply had enough. we changed our name to Center for Domestic Peace in 2010 to incorporate our vision for peace and identify more inclusively with the community we are serving.
we provide a wide range of bilingual (English and Spanish) services, including legal advocacy, emergency shelter, a 24-hour crisis hotline, transitional housing, support groups (including one to repair the bond between children and their non-abusing parent), prevention programs in schools, a healthy masculinity program for boys and young men, and a batterer intervention program called ManKind. we have a Spanish-speaking survivor group, Voces de Cambio (Voices of Change), who work on speaking to the community and running prevention and advocacy campaigns to ensure we are a voice and face in the underserved and underrepresented parts of our community.
we also collaborate with other domestic violence organizations to address our efforts on a larger scale and to ensure we are doing all that we can to end this violence in our communities. we know we are stronger together.”
“i help survivors navigate various legal systems: criminal justice, child protection, immigration. survivors are often confused when their requests for help to the police, for instance, turn into criminal cases. my job is to watch their cases from an outside point of view, to be sure the various legal systems are following the safety procedures put in place to increase victim safety — like laws that require police to do certain things, such as provide an emergency protective order. the other part of my role is to counsel victims to ensure they understand what is happening with their case and can make better decisions for themselves.”
“i am a survivor of domestic violence, and a former recipient of Center for Domestic Peace’s services. what inspires me is the opportunity to work alongside a team of extraordinary women and men working day and night towards peace.”
“my days are spent communicating with criminal justice system collaborators to ensure we understand updated procedures around helping victims of domestic violence obtain restraining orders, and how best to guide them through the criminal justice system during this time.”
“domestic violence has many faces — it is not just physical. it can come in the form of emotional, economic, verbal, spiritual and sexual abuse. it includes stalking and strangulation.
one misconception is that when abusers are abusing their partners, they are “out of control.” that they can’t help it. this is not the case. if they are out of control, who is in control? we know that domestic violence is a learned behavior, and can therefore be unlearned. this is why we offer our batterer intervention program, ManKind — to help those who are struggling with their abusive behavior learn healthy relating. it is simply not enough to aid the survivor; we must make sure abusers are getting the help they need too, or else the abuse will not stop."
“those experiencing domestic violence are now sheltering-in-place with their abusers. we know from previous national disasters, and from current international reports, that otherwise-protective strategies that confine people to their homes in this way have potential to put domestic violence victims at greater risk, due to the isolation this creates. we know that isolation leads to greater danger for victims. this reality — coupled with the financial impact of COVID-19 — means domestic violence victims may now face significantly increased barriers that prevent them from seeking help, finding shelter or other alternatives to their current living situation.
abusers are coming up with new tactics to control their partners. coughing and spitting on their partners so they think they have COVID-19. keeping their partners out into the street under the suspicion of them having the virus. further isolating their partner by preying on the fear of contracting COVID-19. these behaviors further isolate victims and make it more difficult to get help and stay safe. they do not necessarily have the privacy to call our hotline, or clue a friend or neighbor into their predicament.
those that have received help are facing a different crisis right now. survivors who live in our transitional housing are predominately low income, and many have lost their source of income. rent and food are a priority for many right now.”
“our services are still fully operational — they just look a little different. our staff are in communication every day on ways we must adapt. we now offer therapy and legal assistance over the phone. many of our prevention efforts are being hosted via Zoom meetings — our Champion Men’s Zone (boys and young men’s group to discuss healthy masculinity) as well as M.A.Y.A. (Marin Against Youth Abuse) programs are being hosted on the platform.
our emergency shelter is operational, and we are practicing physical distancing by putting our current residents in hotels where they can be well during this time. our case manager assists participants’ needs by phone, as do our clinical therapists.
we are in conversation with the district attorney’s office on how we can provide legal advocacy during this time. right now, we are still offering support in obtaining restraining orders for survivors.
we are leveraging our social media platforms to let people know how they can be allies to survivors during this time. lending an ear is invaluable now more than ever.
“abusers will isolate and talk for their partner. those experiencing domestic violence might be short or defensive when talking about their home life. you might be a neighbor of someone experiencing this violence and hear loud shouting matches.”
“embrace the idea of sheltering in peace and physical distancing, versus isolating and social distancing. making it a goal to live and be peaceful during these times benefits us all.
our Spanish English 24-hour hotline is still up and running. if you or someone you know is being abused, please call us at 415-924-6616 — we can help you create a safe plan to flee your situation or survive the moment.
our ManKind program office is open Monday through Friday from 9am PT to 5pm PT at 415-457-6760. you can talk to someone from the program who can identify with your situation and can help you create peace for yourself.
if you know a young person in an abusive relationship, they can text Marin Youth Services on Monday through Friday from 9am PT to 5pm PT at 415-526-2557 and get help.
“letting people know you are there for them goes a long way during these unpredictable times. this goes for both survivors and abusers. both need to know they are not in this alone. survivors need to know that help is out there, and that their friends, families and neighbors care about their well-being. abusers need to be able to confide in someone who will help them manage their behaviors. we as an organization are relying on our shared community to step up and be an ally. please reach out to us.”
“i try to do a yoga class daily. yoga gives me a unique opportunity to connect with my body and soul, and gives me the gift of having a clear mind, happiness and flexibility. i also meditate throughout the day — in the mornings, in the middle of the day, at night. i talk with my daughters as much as i can on the phone or FaceTime. i also have a wonderful and supportive partner; we have been together for sixteen years. he knows how difficult but important what i do is, so he tries to support me each day. we are also goof balls and do our best to maintain that every day. we love playing board games — let me tell you though, i must keep an eye on him as he tries to cheat in most games.”
“as i am getting older one of my goals is to be fit not only externally, but internally. i love skiing, but in my own way. i go back and forth from my green and blue runs; it just depends on how i feel that day. skiing gives me pleasure, and i feel i have a great relationship with the mountain as I come down the slope, feeling that all the pressure and tension flush out of my body with the cold breeze and the snow.
i also love camping and fly-fishing — i call myself a fly-fishing woman! one of my favorite camping places is in Mount Shasta, it’s a very remote area where you will see only fly fisherman and fly fisher women. my favorite thing about fly fishing is the relationship you and the river have, and the beauty that each cast brings you. with each cast release, i feel as though i am letting go of the pressure that gets built up in my body, and i bring my line back in as if i am breathing in peace and joy. camping gives me an opportunity to connect with mother earth. it disconnects me from any type of electronic device and allows me to reconnect with myself. i love all the Dutch oven meals that my partner and i make, and the peacefulness that a campfire brings us.
i also enjoy hiking in my neighborhood. i live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and i am blessed for that. i also bowl in the Presidio league once a week, it is so much fun! i celebrate every down or standing pin and even the gutter balls! Thursday nights are when i laugh the most. i love socializing with everyone from the other teams.”
“to give back to my community a little of what i received — a life free of violence — and to provide the same to my daughters. that every second, every minute, every hour of work is an investment for a better tomorrow — for my granddaughter Talia Marie, and for all of us.”